• Yes, I picked the Washington Capitals to beat Philadelphia. No, I didn’t expect it would be a cakewalk (though I can’t imagine walking on cake would be all that easy, either). And that was the moral of the story in the Flyers’ 2-0 win Sunday, which evened their first round NHL playoff series at one game apiece.
Most of the credit for the win will go to Martin Biron’s mastery in Philadelphia’s net, and much of the fault will go to Caps defenseman Mike Green and sniper Alex Semin. I don’t wholly disagree with that diagnosis, but above and beyond scapegoating, I think you saw (a) Washington grow more tentative and jittery after they failed to score despite having five of the game’s first seven power plays; and (b) the Flyers grow more confident in Biron and their defense after that point.
By the time the third period rolled around, the Caps were the undisciplined group (three penalties in the period, compared to Philly’s single minor) the Flyers were the ones gaining momentum, and the thought of another late-game Washington comeback was difficult to buy into.
I still like the Capitals to win in six games. But this series has “nausea-inducing roller coaster” written all over it.
• Call it a fixation if you must, but I wouldn’t be doing my columnistly duties if I didn’t direct your attention to this fascinating poll from Sun Media exposing the pro hockey fighting community for what it is: a dwindling minority.
I’m not going to lie – reading that nearly 70 percent of Ontarians are in favor of banning fisticuffs in major junior hockey was a delightful way to start my Sunday. Because it shows – counter to what you hear from those who swoon at the sound of a knuckle being chucked – most people have come to realize the greatest game on ice differs from no other in many respects, including expectations of base-level sportsmanship.
If that weren’t good news enough, I stumble across a letter to the Montreal Gazette editor from Ken Stevenson of Courtenay, B.C.
I’m in wholehearted agreement with Mr. Stevenson’s first two paragraphs. But we differ on whom to blame for it; where he would like to permanently suspend some notable multiple-offense players (e.g. Chris Pronger), I would prefer banning a hockey culture that encourages aggression and abdicates organizational policing responsibilities to the point where players take (often misguided concepts of) retribution into their own hands.
Evidence of such is all around. For instance, see, courtesy of ESPN.com, where NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently read the riot act to teams in regards to the notion of “tanking” games to land a better draft lottery position or more ideal playoff matchup.
“Everybody’s on notice that there is a line that can be crossed that we won’t tolerate,” Bettman said last week. “You want to motivate your team? There are lots of ways to do it without demeaning the officials or the game or questioning integrity.”
Hmmmnnn…motivating your team…how else do people claim that can be done…oh, that’s right – fights, especially the super-duper-polite-and-not-at-all-staged-and-how-dare-you-even-suggest-it ones best epitomized by the now-infamous Georges Laraque/Raitis Ivanans “Good luck!” tilt from 2006.
Perhaps my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t recall Bettman stepping in front of the cameras and microphones and talking sternly and solemnly about line-crossing and the game’s integrity back then. Guess he was simply catering to the wishes of the minority that laps up such sludge.
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Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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